DAYTON – Indiana experienced both ends of the spectrum in its first games in the NCAA tournament.
The No. 1 seed Hoosiers cruised to an 83-62 victory over No. 16 seed James Madison in the East Regional second round Friday at University of Dayton Arena. But they found themselves in a battle in the third round.
Indiana trailed No. 9 seed Temple 52-48 with 3:09 to play Sunday, but the Hoosiers held the Owls scoreless for the final three minutes.
And thanks to a block and key rebound by Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo’s late free throw and three-pointer, Indiana escaped with a 58-52 win.
The Hoosiers (29-6) will play No. 4 seed Syracuse (28-9) in the Sweet 16 at 9:45 p.m. Thursday in Washington. IU is in a regional semifinal for the second year in a row.
Just a win and an experience and an understanding of the game that’s going to help us moving forward without a doubt, IU coach Tom Crean said after Sunday’s win. I’m proud of the way every one of them played.
Indiana didn’t come out unscathed from its first two games.
Senior guard Jordan Hulls injured his right shoulder in the first half against Temple and spent the final 6:58 of the half in the locker room. He returned in the second half with a harness on his shoulders and a bandage on his right shoulder.
My shoulder is good, said Hulls, who hit a three-pointer and jumper in the second half Sunday. I’m sure it will be a little sore, but nothing too serious.
Indiana will want to be at full strength when it plays Syracuse.
The Orange reached the Sweet 16 with an 81-34 win over No. 13 seed Montana in the second round Thursday and a 66-60 win over No. 12 seed California on Saturday in San Jose, Calif.
Syracuse finished fifth in the Big East and reached the conference tournament’s championship game, falling 78-61 to Louisville on March 16.
The Orange’s offense is led by All-Big East second team selection C.J. Fair, who averages 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds. He scored 13 against Montana and 18 against Cal.
Brandon Triche averages 13.8 points, and Michael Carter-Williams, who was named the Big East’s co-most improved player of the year, averages 11.8 points and racked up 100 steals this season.
Syracuse uses a zone defense that has held teams to 59.4 points per game, the 30th best defensive average in the country. The Orange is also tied for 14th in the nation in steals with nine per game, and the team forces 15.5 turnovers per game.
The Hoosiers are second in the nation by scoring 80.1 points per game, but they average 12.9 turnovers and turned the ball over 21 times in their first two NCAA tournament games.
Attacking the 2-3 zone, just because they are so long, we can’t turn the ball over, IU guard Kevin Yogi Ferrell said.
Everyone gets a little frantic about the zone and how long they are. I feel like if we just take care of the ball, move it and look for our openings, we will be OK.